American families are having a tough time catching a break, thanks to stagnant wages and an uneven recovery. But a less-known issue may be playing an even bigger role: child care costs.
This expense is now a major stress on many American families, given that only a handful of cities meet the Department of Health and Human Services’ affordability threshold for the service — 10 percent of family income — and that child care costs more than college tuition in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
That’s according to a new report from The Economic Policy Institute. The issue increasingly isn’t a problem only for low-income families but also for middle-income and even upper-income Americans, given that the median household income peaked in 1999.
“In 500 out of 618 budget areas, child care actually exceeded the cost of rent. It was so shocking” given that rent is considered one of the major expenses in a family’s budget, said Elise Gould, a senior economist at the EPI who wrote the report with Tanyell Cooke.
While costs vary wildly based on location, the common theme is that most Americans are struggling to pay for quality child care. That’s why so many families create a network of friends and family to provide care, or sometimes cobble together staggered shifts so that one parent is at home with the kids.